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Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

McKillop aims to match Smyth feat

Michael McKillop
Michael McKillop clinched Paralympic 800m gold in Beijing last year

Michael McKillop will this Sunday aim to match a feat achieved by his fellow Paralympics gold medallist Jason Smyth.

Smyth became the first Irish athlete to qualify for a able-bodied major event when he competed in this year's European Under-23 Track Championships.

McKillop is hoping to secure a place in the Irish team for next month's European Cross Country tests in Dublin.

The Belfast man is competing in the under-20 event at the Irish trials at the Westmeath venue of Kilbeggan.

McKillop, who like Smyth won Paralympics gold last year in Beijing, will battle to secure a place on the six-man Irish team for the European event at Santry on 13 December.

On current form, McKillop looks capable of being in the mix for qualification in Sunday's Irish trials, which double as the Irish Inter-Counties Championship.

The Paralympics 800m champion competed against several of his Irish rivals at the recent Gerry Farnan Cross Country meeting in Dublin's Phoenix Park and he was the third under-20 finisher in that event.

Training has been going well since then, so I'm reasonably hopeful

Michael McKillop

The Belfast man was less pleased with a further outing in Belgium when he was eighth Irish finisher but McKillop remains optimistic for this weekend's Westmeath event.

"It's going to be tough but I think I've got a chance to qualify for the Europeans," McKillop told BBC Sport.

"I ran well at the Gerry Farnan Races and was a bit disappointed with my run in Belgium but training has been going well since then, so I'm reasonably hopeful."

A top-three finish in Westmeath will earn McKillop an automatic European place although the first six past the post could prove enough to secure a spot for the 19-year-old.

The current wet weather will be a concern for McKillop and he prefers firm ground so the Belfast man will be hoping for drier conditions in the build-up to Sunday's race.

Martin Fagan, Mark Christie and Alistair Cragg won't be in action in Kilbeggan for different reasons but may still be a key part of the Irish team for Santry.

However, Mary Cullen will be in action in the women's event and last year's European Cross Country four-placed finisher will be expected to triumph in Westmeath after producing good early season form.

Jason Smyth, meanwhile, is currently training in Florida under the supervision of top America coach Lance Braumom, whose group of athletes include Tyson Gay and Jamaican Steve Mullings.

Double Paralympic champion Smyth has already qualified for the 100m at next year's European Championships in Barcelona and he also hopes to qualify for the 200m in Catalonia.

Smyth is also aiming to qualify for next year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

see also
Sprinter Smyth claims Irish title
02 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Smyth claims second Beijing gold
16 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Smyth wins 100m gold in Beijing
13 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
McKillop claims gold for Ireland
10 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
McKillop mission
03 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport

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